Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan Praises Deal Involving Solar Company with Alleged Ethics Problems


Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming) this week praised a deal involving a Georgia electric cooperative and a Tennessee-based solar power company, the latter of which has a history of alleged ethics violations.

This, according to a press release that members of Duncan’s staff published on his website.

Duncan, in the press release, said he supports three solar projects in the southern part of the state involving the Tucker-based Green Power EMC and the Nashville, Tennessee-based Silicon Ranch.

Silicon Ranch Corporation helps finance the construction of solar arrays. Founding chairman Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, served as Tennessee’s governor from 2003 to 2011 and ran for the U.S. Senate in 2018 but lost to U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

“The sites were developed, funded, and built by Silicon Ranch, which also owns, operates, and maintains the arrays throughout the lifecycle of each facility,” Duncan’s press release said.

“Green Power EMC, the renewable energy provider for 38 Georgia Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs), is purchasing all the energy and environmental attributes generated by the facilities on behalf of its Member EMCs for the next 30 years.”

Duncan, in the press release, said solar is an “innovative” energy source that harnesses Georgia’s natural resources.

As The Tennessee Star reported in 2018, through Silicon Ranch Bredesen has personally benefited from policies he enacted as governor. As governor, Bredesen had long touted the benefits of solar energy.

In 2009, for instance, Bredesen used $62.5 million in federal stimulus money to fund two solar-related projects under what was known as the Volunteer State Solar Initiative. The first project, the Tennessee Solar Institute, is at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory campuses in Knoxville and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The second project, the West Tennessee Solar Farm near Brownsville, Tennessee is a five-megawatt 20-acre power generation facility. In 2009 Bredesen described that as one that helps with educational, research, and economic development matters.

Also in 2010, Silicon Ranch subleased office space from Pathway Lending, a company that had economic development interests with the state while Bredesen was governor.

“Such involvement on the governor’s part might serve as additional violations of the state’s Guiding Principles of Ethical Conduct for State Officials,” according to a 2010 Tennessee Watchdog article.

Those guiding principles warn elected officials against even the appearance of a conflict of interest when it comes to financial interests.

As The Star reported that year, Bredesen rakes in millions of dollars off deals involving Silicon Ranch Corp. by pitching solar projects that appear on paper to offer a cheaper alternative to coal. But under closer examination, the Silicon Ranch numbers are skewed by federal tax credits that subsidize its solar-energy industry.

As The Star also reported in 2018, Nick Loris, of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, also said solar is more expensive. He also said solar isn’t as effective an energy saver as people in government might lead Americans to believe. Loris said solar has only hobbled along as far as it has because of government subsidies and tax incentives.

The government, Loris went on to say, “props up companies that couldn’t compete in a marketplace otherwise.”

That’s corporate welfare, Loris said.

Silicon Ranch officials posted a 2019 National Public Radio article on their website that said the cost of installing solar power has fallen by more than 70 percent in the past decade. The article also said that solar is “now cost competitive with traditional forms of energy, even natural gas.”

But the NPR article also said that “federal tax credits enacted in 2006 also have been helpful.”

As The Star reported in 2018, political activists called out Bredesen during his U.S. Senate run that year for pumping millions into the solar industry as governor of Tennessee and then launching Silicon Ranch while still governor.

Duncan on Thursday did not return The Georgia Star News’ requests for comment.

As The Star News reported this week, Duncan told a nationally-televised audience Sunday that his fellow Republicans should move past former U.S. President Donald Trump and forget passing certain election reform bills.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]








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